12 Dec 2017

Goldschmidt ( Le système stoïcien et l'idée de temps, “Définition”, summary


by Corry Shores


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[The following is summary. Bracketed commentary is my own, as is any boldface. Proofreading is incomplete, which means typos are present, especially in the quotations. So consult the original text. Also, I welcome corrections to my interpretations, because I am not good enough with French or Greek to make accurate translations of the texts.]




Summary of


Victor Goldschmidt


Le système stoïcien et l'idée de temps


Première partie:

La théorie du temps et sa portée


A. La théorie du temps


III. La théorie du temps Définition




Brief summary:

For Chrysippus the Stoic, time is the interval of movement in the sense of giving measure to the motion’s speed or slowness. It is also the movement of the world by which all things not only move but also exist. For, existence  is a matter of being actually active in the present, and this furthermore is to be true, because to exist means to be an activity currently belonging to a subject. Thus “walk” truly belongs to you and thus exists when you are actually walking right now, and it does not truly belong to you and it does not exist when you are currently sitting or lying down. This also means that the past and the future do not exist. But we still say that they “subsist”. [For, they have somethinghood as incorporeals.] The present is infinitely divisible, without that infinite divisibility ever being completable. This means that any piece of time no matter how small will always include a pastmost and futuremost extremity. Thus no part of time is precisely and completely present, but it is partially so.






Chrysippus defines time in the following ways. {1} Time is the interval of movement, in the sense that one might consider it the measure of speed and slowness. {2} Time is the interval that accompanies the movement of the world, and it is in time that all things move and exist. However, time has two meanings, just like the earth, sea, and void. For, we can consider all four in terms of the whole or the parts. Just as the whole void is infinite in all respects, so too is the whole of time infinite at its two extremities, as the past and the future are infinite. This is clearly affirmed by Chrysippus’ thesis: no time is entirely present; for, since the division of time continues to the infinite, and since time is continuous, that means that each cut in time can be further divided infinitely. Thus no time is exactly present, but a time is said to be present in a certain extent. Chrysippus says that only the present exist, while the past and the future subsist without existing at all. Similarly, Chrissipus says that only predicates that are actual attributes exist; for example “walk” belongs to me when I am walking, but when I am lying or sitting, it does not exist.

10. « Chrysippe définit le temps : intervalle du mouvement, au sens où on l’appelle parfois mesure de la rapidité et de la lenteur ; ou encore : l’intervalle accompagnant le mouvement du monde ; et c’est dans le temps, que toutes | choses se meuvent et existent. Toutefois, le temps se prend dans deux acceptions, ainsi que la terre, la mer et le vide : (on peut en considérer) le tout ou les parties. De même que le vide total est infini de toutes parts, de même le temps total est infini à ses deux extrémités ; en effet, le passé et le futur sont infinis. C’est ce qu’affirme très clairement sa thèse : aucun temps n’est entièrement présent ; car puisque la division des continus va à l’infini, et que le temps est un continu1, chaque temps aussi comporte la division à l’infini ; en sorte qu’aucun temps n’est rigoureusement présent, mais on le dit (présent)2 selon une certaine étendue. Il soutient que, seul, le présent existe ; le passé et le futur subsistent, mais n’existent pas du tout, selon lui3 ; de la même manière, seuls, les attributs qui sont accidents (actuels) sont dits exister : par exemple, la promenade existe pour moi, quand je me promène ; mais, quand je suis couché ou assis, elle n’existe pas »4.


1. Litt. : « selon cette distinction » (des continus et des discontinus).

2. Le mouvement de la phrase impose cette interprétation, corroborée, au surplus, par la définition donnée par Posidonius : Τὸ δὲ νῦν καὶ τὰ ὅμοια ἐν πλάτει χρόνον καὶ οὐχὶ κατ’ἀπαρτισμὸν νοεῖσθαι. (Arius Did., 26 ; Dox. gr., 461, 19-20.)

3. Nous adoptons la conjecture de v. Arnim : φησιν. Ms : εἰσὶν; Diels : εἰ μή.

4. Arius Did . , 26 (Dox. gr., 461, 23 sqq. = S.V.F. , II, 509).






Other translations:


Chrysippus of Soli

(Χρύσιππος ὁ Σολεύς)




Joannes Stobaeus

(Ἰωάννης ὁ Στοβαῖο)


Eclogues I / Extracts I

(Eclogae I / Ἐκλογαὶ φυσικαὶ καὶ ἠθικαί)



(SVF 2.509)


Stobaeus, Eclogae I, 1.106, 5-23, part, Luhtala translation:

Only the present exists (ὑπάρχειν); the past and the future subsist (ὑφεστάναι); in the same way, as attributes (συμβεβηκότα), only the accidents are said to be the case (ὑπάρχειν); for example walking (τὸ περιπατεῖν) is true of me (ὑπάρχειν), when I walk; but when I sit or when I lie down, it is not true {οὐχ ὑπάρχει}. (SVF 2.509)

(Luhtala 2000: 113. Curly bracketed insertion is mine. See section


Stobaeus, Eclogae I, 1.106, 5-23, Long and Sedley translation:

51B Stobaeus 1.106, 5-23 (SVF 2.509)

(1) Chrysippus said time is the dimension of motion according to which the measure of speed and slowness is spoken of; or the dimension accompanying the world's motion. (2) And (he says) every single thing moves and exists in accordance with time . . . Just as the void in its totality is infinite in every respect, so time in its totality is infinite on either side. For both the past and the future are infinite. (3) He says most clearly that no time is wholly present. For since continuous things are infinitely divisible, on the basis of this division every time too is infinitely divisible. Consequently no time is present exactly, but it is broadly said to be so. (4) He also says that only the present belongs; the past and the future subsist, but belong in no way, just as only predicates {κατηγορήματα} which are [actual] attributes {συμβεβηκότα} are said to belong, for instance, walking around belongs to me when I am walking around, but it does not belong when I am lying down or sitting.

(Long and Sedley 1987: I, 304; II, 301-302. Curly bracketed insertions mine.)


Stobaeus, Anthology 1.8.42 (vol. 1, pp. 105.17–106.23 W-H), Inwood and Gerson translation, part:

TEXT 44: Stobaeus Anthology 1.8.42 (vol. 1, pp. 105.17–106.23 W-H)


Chrysippus: Chrysippus says that time is the interval of motion according to which the measure of speed and slowness is sometimes spoken of; or, time is the interval which accompanies the motion of the cosmos. And each and every thing is said to move and to exist  {εἶναι} in accordance with time, unless of course time is spoken of in two senses, as are earth and sea and void and the universe and its parts. And just as void as a whole is infinite in every direction, so too time as a whole is infinite in both directions; for both the past and the future are infinite. He says most clearly that no time is wholly present; for since the divisibility of continuous things is infinite, time as a whole is also subject to infinite divisibility by this method of division. Consequently, no time is present in the strictest sense but only in a broad sense. He says that only the present exists, whereas the past and future subsist but do not at all exist— unless it is in the way that predicates are said to exist, though only those that actually apply; for example, walking ‘exists for me’ when I am walking, but when I am reclining or sitting it does not ‘exist for me’. . . .

(Inwood and Gerson 2008: 88. Curly bracketed insertions mine.)


Stobaeus Eclogae I p.106, 5 W. (Arii Did. fr. 26 Diels) in SVF 2.509:


(SVF 1964b: 164)


Stobaeus, Eclogae I, p.106


(Stobaeus 1884a: 106)






Goldschmidt, Victor. (1953). Le système stoïcien et l'idée de temps. Paris: Vrin.



Also cited:


Inwood, Brad, and Gerson, Loyd P. 2008. The Stoics Reader. Selected Writings and Testimonia, edited and translated by Brad Inwood and Loyd P. Gerson. Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett.


Long, Anthony A. and David N. Sedley. 1987. The Hellenistic Philosophers, vol.1: Translations of the Principle Sources, with Philosophical Commentary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Long, Anthony A. and David N. Sedley. 1987. The Hellenistic Philosophers, vol.2: Greek and Latin Texts with Notes and Bibliography. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Luhtala, Anneli. 2000. On the Origin of Syntactical Description in Stoic Logic. Münster: Nodus.


Stobaeus. 1884a. Ioannis Stobaei: Anthologium, vol.1. [Ioannis Stobaei, Anthologium Volumen Primum, Anthologii Librum Primum Volumen I: Libri duo Priores qui inscribi solent Eclogae Physicae et Ethicae] Edited by Kurt Wachsmuth. Berlin: Weidmann.

PDF at:



SVF. 1964b. Stoicorum veterum fragmenta, vol.2: Chrysippi Fragmenta Logica et Physica. Ed.  Hans von Arnim. Stuttgart: Teubner.

PDF available at:





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